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Fats are not our enemy-we need them in our diet in reasonable amounts to maintain healthy bodily functions. However, man-made fats such as margarines and trans-fat laden shortenings, and those made from non-organic animal sources (conventional butter for example) are best to stay away from as they’ve been tampered with regard to their natural state. There’s a lot of jargon around fats these days in nutrition circles-monounsatured, omega 3, omega 6, medium chain fatty acids etc etc-all this can be quite dizzying so we just need to remember-if it’s been tampered with from its most natural state, then its best to stay away from.
When it comes to sauteing, frying, or pan-frying (anything requiring high heat), I like to use oils that have been made without chemical solvents and other harsh chemicals. These are usually labeled “cold-pressed” and/or “expeller-pressed”. Canola is the best option in this case as its neutral flavor lends itself to use in many types of ethnic cuisine. Coconut oil is great with South Indian and Southeast Asian dishes, peanut oil with Asian dishes, ghee for North Indian dishes and olive oil for Mediteranean if you’re willing to spend the extra buck. Otherwise, naturally extracted canola is best for higher-heat cooking and its generally the cheapest.
The virgin oils, such as extra virgin olive oil and unrefined coconut oil, are best reserved for dressings and lower-heat applications as their nutritive properties diminish upon heating-more on that in a future post!
Spices can be add a whole new dimension of flavor and complexity to a dish if used properly. Here are 5 essential tips for making the most of your spices:
- Buy most of your spices whole. Not only do they keep longer, but their flavor is more potent when freshly ground.
- The few spices that actually are mostly available in their powdered form-such as paprika and turmeric-should be kept no longer than 6 months in your spice cabinet.
- Store spices in a dark, cool, and dry place.
- Many spices (with the exception of some such as black peppercorns or cinnamon) are unpalatable in their raw state so either dry roast or lightly fry them for dish preparations.
- Spices can burn easily and leave off flavors so keep an eye on them when adding to dry preparations (for example, when frying with other aromatics in oil.)
Keep these in mind and you’ll be on your way to creating more satisfying dishes that will help you EatFree!
If there’s five natural sweeteners that are essential pantry items for a whole-foods based, EatFree style of cooking, here they are:
1) Agave Nectar: Buy the light variety if you are going to buy one since its lighter flavor helps it to act as a backdrop (as opposed to overwhelming) the other flavors it is trying to enhance in a recipe.
2) Honey: Buy the darker variety for enhanced nutrition and for its unique floral quality that no other sweetener can bring.
3) Maple Syrup: Buy it for its unique flavor. Remember not to purchase pancake syrup, which is little more than corn syrup flavored with artificial maple flavors.
4) Turbinado Raw Sugar: You can substitute demerara sugar as well. This sugar has versatile uses-for example, it can be pulverized to act like refined white sugar in baking.
5) Light Muscavado Sugar: This is the “real” brown sugar. It adds moistness and chewiness to baked goods as well as adding depth of flavor to Asian style sauces and glazes.
The other specialty sugars such as palm and jaggery can be bought for specific recipes, but as long as you have these five, you’re well-stocked for most whole-foods based, EatFree style recipes!
A lot of ingredients get bad press these days, but in my opinion, none should be looked upon as more treacherous than white sugar and its derivatives. I find it questionable that some, for example, may extol the virtues of a vegan (or any “healthy”) diet and espouse recipes and products thereof, but still be including white sugar and its derivatives in diets, foods, and recipes. It’s seems to me that it would it would make more sense to “demonize” white sugar and its derivatives (and need I say high fructose corn syrup), which have no semblance to their original source whatsoever, as opposed to butter, for example, which is a food close to its natural source.
White sugar and its derivatives include commerical brown sugar (which is simply white sugar with some molasses added back in) and all forms of powdered sugar. White sugar has been so highly processed from its original source that it lacks any nutritive vitality whatsoever. When the body intakes foods of this nature, it “asks back” for these nutritive deficiencies in the form of what we experience as “cravings”. Eliminate white sugar and its derivatives from your diet with no exception and you will see that your cravings are highly reduced (and you’ll be closer to being able to EatFree!). If you’re looking for ways to replace white sugar and its derivatives in baking applications, check out my recipe page for ideas. In the EatFree style of cooking, it is a banned ingredient. You’ll see no traces of it!